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BT Spin: Championship Game Set

Welcome to Big Ten Spin!

Braxton Miller led Ohio State past Michigan for 12-0 finish

We hope to make this a weekly recap on what happened in Big Ten football. Plus, we’ll share the first word on what’s next for each Big Ten school.

Each week, we take a look back at the games from the weekend and provide some analysis and observations. But there are some other developments we will discuss this week, including the Nebraska-Wisconsin match-up in the Big Ten championship game and Purdue’s firing of head coach Danny Hope.

Nebraska locked up its spot in the Big Ten title game with a 13-7 win at Iowa on Friday. The game was played in adverse conditions where neither team could get much accomplished offensively.

The Huskers will be playing Wisconsin in Saturday’s title game. The Badgers lost in overtime for the third time in its last four games, losing to Penn State 24-21. Wisconsin, though just 4-4 in the conference, is the top eligible team in the Leaders Division with Ohio State and Penn State serving postseason bans.

Ohio State completed a 12-0 regular season with a 26-21 win over visiting Michigan. This OSU team is the Big Ten’s first unbeaten team since Ohio State went 14-0 and won the national title 10 years ago in 2002.

Northwestern wrapped a 9-3 regular season with a 50-14 pasting of Illinois. Michigan State and Purdue each got to six wins to qualify for postseason play. MSU defeated Minnesota 26-10, while Purdue walloped Indiana 56-35. Still, that Boilers win was not enough to save Hope’s job.

On Monday night, the Big Ten Network will televise the All-Big Ten team selection show. On Friday, we shared our selections for the All-Big Ten team.

Badgers, Huskers To Square Off In Indy

The Big Ten championship game is set as Nebraska will take on Wisconsin Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (8 p.m., FOX).

Nebraska is in its second year in the Big Ten and would be playing to get to the Rose Bowl for the first time since it played Miami (Fla.) in the 2002 national championship game in Pasadena. Nebraska was 2-4 in Big 12 title game appearances between 1996-2010, but the Huskers have not won a league championship since 1999.

“It’s an honor to be able to go to Indianapolis and represent our division and play against a heck of a football team,” said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. “We have a tremendous amount of respect for Wisconsin and their program. It should be a great match-up and a great game.”

Nebraska lost heartbreaking Big 12 conference title games to Texas in 2009 (13-12) and Oklahoma in 2010 (23-20). The Huskers have not been to a BCS bowl since that Rose Bowl national title game loss to Miami 11 years ago.

“We had a couple of tough losses,” Pelini said. “If that adds some extra motivation, I don’t know if you need that at this time of the year. We played two really good football teams in those games. We’re trying to knock the door down.”

Wisconsin will be fighting for a third straight Big Ten championship and third straight Rose Bowl berth. It hasn’t been an easy road for the Badgers, who have lost three games in overtime in the last four weeks.

“Our kids have battled their tails off,” said UW coach Bret Bielema. “They encountered some adversity both on the field and off of it. They continue to step up. I couldn’t be more proud of where they’re at. Obviously, we would like to have more wins. But to have a chance to go back to Indianapolis and have one shot to try and go back to the Rose Bowl is incredible.

Ohio State and Penn State finished ahead of Wisconsin in the Leaders Division standings. Bielema was asked about public perception that his team doesn’t deserve a chance to play for the conference title and the Rose Bowl berth.

“There are 10 teams in the Big Ten that would love to be in the position us and Nebraska will be in on Saturday,” Bielema said. “When the teams take the field on Saturday, nobody will care how the other team got there. They will be competing for the Big Ten championship.

“The people who know us and know our kids do feel good about us. We’ve been on the short end of some close games. We lost to Ohio State and Penn State, who are each ineligible to play in the game, we lost to them in overtime. One play here or there, we could have gotten the win.”

Pelini scoffed at the notion that this game loses some luster because of Wisconsin’s record.

“I don’t really care what people say about that,” Pelini said. “They are there because they deserve to be there. The last I looked in college football, (Ohio State and Penn State) aren’t there for a reason. That’s nothing against Urban Meyer and the kids at Ohio State who played their tails off. But there is a reason why they aren’t there.”

Bielema was asked how his team responded after painful overtime losses to Ohio State (21-14) and Penn State (24-21) the last two weeks.

“After a game, it hurts when you don’t have success,” Bielema said. “They play extremely hard. They are a physical group. They play the game the right way. I am amazed at the resiliency of this group.

“There will be a lot of Wisconsin fans coming to Indianapolis. We will have a group of 70-plus men going down there to put on our best show. We’ll put out our best effort and see where it takes us.”

This game is a rematch of a game played Sept. 29 in Lincoln. Wisconsin jumped ahead 14-0, 20-3 and 27-10 finally in the third quarter. Nebraska rallied by scoring the game’s last 20 points to steal the win.

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez ran for 107 yards and threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns in that win. Wisconsin running back Montee Ball had 98 yards rushing and three touchdowns for the Badgers.

“Give credit to Nebraska,” Bielema said. “They did an excellent job of playing a four-quarter game in that game. Martinez was critical in the third and fourth quarter. He connected on some passes and had two or three big runs. It was an experience our defense grew from.

“We’re a completely different football team. We have a new quarterback (Curt Phillips) and we have also changed some things defensively as well.”

Bielema hopes last year serves as a good omen for Wisconsin. His Badgers lost to Michigan State 37-31 on a Hail Mary pass in the regular season. But they came back and defeated MSU 42-39 in last year’s inaugural Big Ten title game.

“We did it last year in a redemption game against Michigan State,” Bielema said. “The same thing kind of holds true this year. We lost to Nebraska in a heartbreaker. We played well in that game and we also did some things not so well. If we can make some corrections and continue to move forward …

“I know they are a better team than we saw in early October and I know we’re a better team, too.”

Bielema said that Pelini told him after the first match-up that he hoped for a rematch in Indianapolis.

“I was hoping they would be there,” Pelini confirmed. “I have a lot of respect for their team. I thought they would be there. Bret is a hell of a coach and they have a heck of a program and here we are.”

Purdue All Out Of Hope

Word began to leak out at midday on Saturday that Purdue planned to fire Hope whether his Boilers were able to defeat rival Indiana or not. They succeeded in winning the game – their third in a row, albeit over three teams with losing records -- and qualifying for a bowl for the second straight year at 6-6.

But a five-game losing streak with lopsided losses to Michigan (44-13), Wisconsin (38-14), Minnesota (44-28) and Penn State (34-9) was too much to overcome.

Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke made it official on Sunday with his announcement that Hope would not be back in 2013. Hope was 22-27 in four seasons, posting just one winning record in 2011 when the Boilermakers went 7-6 and beat Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Hope’s teams were a combined 13-19 in Big Ten play.

Hope will not coach Purdue's bowl game. Wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins will serve as the interim head coach for the bowl game.

Hope had served previously as a Purdue assistant under Joe Tiller. He left to become the head coach at I-AA Eastern Kentucky, his alma mater. He returned as the head coach-in-waiting in 2008 and took over as the head coach in 2009.

Prior to the bowl win last December, Hope received a two-year contract extension through 2016. The school will pay him a $600,000 buyout as well as his contracted bonus for leading the Boilers to a bowl game.

"There is no question that our football program has seen considerable growth under Danny's leadership, particularly in the areas of academics, player development and recruiting," Burke said in a statement.

"I applaud him for his passion about Purdue University and the young men he coaches. He and his staff have devoted their lives to improving the program, but as I told him earlier this afternoon, those efforts did not equate to the consistent on-field success that both of us expected."

Morgan added, “I make no bones about it. We want to go back to Pasadena.” (Tiller led Purdue to the Rose Bowl after the 2000 season.)

Higgins said he and the team are looking forward to their bowl game.

“The kids are resilient,” Higgins said. “They love Danny … but they're committed to doing best job they can over the next month.”

Names already making the rounds for the Purdue job include Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, Louisiana Tech's Sonny Dykes, Northern Illinois' Dave Doeren, Kent State's Darrell Hazell, Fresno State's Tim DeRuyter, Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, Bowling Green's Dave Clawson and Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin.

Weekly Report

OK, back to this weekend’s games. Here we go with this week’s report:

Ohio State (4) 26, Michigan (20) 21

* What Happened – Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) became just the sixth team in 123 years of football at the school to finish a year unbeaten and untied with its resounding win over Michigan. This was a mistake-filled game for both teams, who combined for six turnovers, eight quarterback sacks and 14 penalties.

OSU quarterback Braxton Miller was 14 of 18 passing for 189 yards and a touchdown and also carried the ball 20 times for 57 yards. RB Carlos Hyde bulled his way to 146 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.

Denard Robinson started at quarterback for Michigan, but he did not throw a pass. Still, Robinson was effective as a runner with 122 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Devin Gardner handled the throwing for UM, completing 11 of 20 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown. But he lost two fumbles and his interception to OSU’s C.J. Barnett with 4:50 left ended UM’s final threat.

OSU, under first-year coach Urban Meyer, made quite a comeback from a dismal 6-7 season last year. While the Buckeyes can’t play in the BCS national title game, Meyer was asked if OSU merited consideration for the Associated Press media poll national title. Meyer stopped short of taking that bait.

“The quote I'd like out there is I think this team could play and compete with any team in the United States of America as of now,” Meyer said. “I didn't say that several weeks ago because we couldn't. I'm not going to get into the what ifs and you can't control what you can't control.”

* What We Learned – OSU won this game without All-Big Ten DE John Simon, who injured his knee in last week’s win over Wisconsin. Simon’s entrance at the end of the pregame senior ceremony – in a jersey and blue jeans – was quite a moment … Equally as emotional was the appearance of former coach Jim Tressel, who was hoisted on the shoulders of players from his 2002 national title team as they celebrated their 10-year anniversary … Michigan played the game without RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, who was injured in last week’s win over Iowa … Robinson said his ailing throwing elbow was fine, but he was never asked to throw a pass. Accordingly, after trailing 21-20 at halftime, the OSU defense held Michigan to no points and 60 yards total offense in the second half … OSU defeated its rival for the 10th time in 12 years … The game was played before an Ohio Stadium-record crowd of 105,899 … Robinson has now accounted for 91 touchdowns in his four-year career, breaking Chad Henne's school record … Three of Michigan’s losses came to teams in the current top five with No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Ohio State. The other was to current No. 14 Nebraska … Ohio State remained No. 4 in the AP poll after the win, while Michigan moved from 20th down to 21st.

* What’s Next – Ohio State’s season is done. Michigan figures to play in one of the Big Ten’s Jan. 1 bowl games in Florida.

* More Coverage – Click here for more coverage from Wolverine 247.

Click here for more coverage of Michigan-OSU. Click here for more coverage from Bucknuts.

Nebraska (17) 13, Iowa 7

* What Happened – Nebraska (10-2, 7-1) wrapped up its berth to the Big Ten title game with this win over Iowa (4-8, 2-6) on a cold and blustery day in Iowa City. The conditions made it difficult for the offense, who combined for just 463 yards.

Rex Burkhead returned from injury and had 69 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries for Nebraska. He had not played since suffering a knee sprain Oct. 20 against Northwestern. QB Taylor Martinez threw for 63 yards and ran for 41 more.

It was a rough sendoff for Iowa senior QB James Vandenberg, who was 11 of 24 for 92 yards with two interceptions. Nebraska’s Alonzo Whaley had the second pick with 2:11 left in the game to ice the win.

RB Mark Weisman had 91 yards rushing for Iowa, which finished the season on a six-game losing streak. The Hawkeyes will miss out on a bowl game for just the second time since 2000.

"Nobody's happy about where we're at," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We fully realize we have a lot of work to do right now."

* What We Learned – Following a 63-38 loss at Ohio State on Oct. 6, Nebraska closed the season with six straight wins … The winds gusted up to 40 mph and made passing extremely difficult … Nebraska's Damion Stafford now has an interception in three straight games and four in his last five … Huskers DE Eric Martin had three TFLs and a sack in the win … The Huskers moved up three spots from 17th to 14th in the AP poll with this win.

* What’s Next – Nebraska moves on to play Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game Saturday in Indianapolis. Iowa’s season is complete.

* More Coverage – Click here for coverage of Nebraska-Iowa and here for more coverage from Huskers Illustrated.

Click here for more coverage from the Voice Of The Hawkeyes.

Michigan State 26, Minnesota 10

* What Happened – After back-to-back 11-win seasons, Michigan State needed a win at Minnesota just to get to six wins and qualify for a bowl. MSU coach Mark Dantonio had termed it a “program game.” And the Spartans (6-6, 3-5) came through win a win over the host Gophers (6-6, 2-6).

RB Le’Veon Bell did the most damage as he roared for a career-high 266 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries to lead MSU. QB Andrew Maxwell threw for 143 yards and a touchdown, but also had two interceptions – one of which UM’s Aaron Hill returned 33 yards for the Gophers’ only touchdown.

Minnesota coach Jerry Kill suffered another seizure, keeping him off sideline for the second half. Kill's latest episode occurred in the locker room at halftime as the team was returning to the field, the third such game-day occurrence in his second season at the school. This time, he didn't need to be hospitalized, however.

Kill had a seizure last year near the end of a home loss to New Mexico State. This season, he went to the hospital after a home loss to Northwestern on Oct. 13. UM athletic director Norwood Teague said Kill was comfortable and all of his vital signs were fine. Kill was cleared to go home after resting for a few hours.

* What We Learned – MSU kicker Dan Conroy drilled four field goals, including three from 43 yards or longer … MSU had 21 first downs to just seven for Minnesota, which managed just 96 yards total offense. Minnesota netted 4 yards on 19 rushing attempts … Minnesota QB Phillip Nelson wasn’t much better as he threw three interceptions. MSU corner Johnny Adams had two picks for the Spartans … The win allows MSU to go to a bowl for the sixth straight year under Dantonio … MSU’s Bell, a junior, is the Big Ten’s top rusher with 1,648 yards and 11 TDs.

* What’s Next – Michigan State and Minnesota are each done with the regular season and will await their bowl assignments.

* More Coverage – Click here for more coverage of MSU-Minnesota. Click here for more coverage from Spartan Tailgate.

Purdue 56, Indiana 35

* What Happened – Purdue (6-6, 3-5) needed a home win over Indiana (4-8, 2-6) to qualify for a bowl and the Boilers came through in a wild one in the latest installment of the Old Oaken Bucket rivalry.

Indiana led 21-14 at halftime before Purdue stormed to a 35-21 lead late in the third quarter. IU rallied with a pair of toouchdowns to tie it at 35-35 early in the fourth quarter. But Purdue finished it with three touchdowns from RB Akeem Shavers to win it going away. Shavers caught TD passes of 73 and 26 yards from Robert Marve and also had a 1-yard TD run to wrap it up.

Marve was 20 of 29 passing for 348 yards and four TDs for Purdue, while Indiana’s Cameron Coffman was 31 of 53 passing for 348 yards with one touchdown but with three costly interceptions.

* What We Learned – Purdue wrapped the season with three straight wins over Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, three teams with a combined record of 10-26 … These teams have played the last game of the regular season every year since 1920 with the exception of 1942 and 2001. Purdue leads the all-time series 72-37-6. Purdue has won four of the last five meetings … Indiana reached 4-5 after a win over Iowa on Nov. 3. But they lost their last three games to Wisconsin, Penn State and Purdue by an average of 31 points per loss.

* What’s Next – Purdue will await its bowl assignment. Indiana’s season is done.

* More Coverage – Click here for more coverage of Indiana-Purdue. Click here for more coverage from Inside Indiana.

Click here for more coverage of Purdue athletics.

Northwestern 50, Illinois 14

* What Happened – Northwestern (9-3, 5-3) snapped a two-game losing streak to instate rival Illinois (2-10, 0-8) with a lopsided win in the Land of Lincoln Trophy Game in Evanston. QB Kain Colter threw for 102 yards and 3 TDs and rushed for 88 yards and a score in the win. RB Venric Mark carried 18 times for 127 yards and a touchdown.

Illinois had four turnovers and committed eight penalties in the loss, its ninth in a row to end the first season for coach Tim Beckman.

* What We Learned – Northwestern hit the nine-win plateau for the first time since 2008. The win increases NU’s shot of a Jan. 1 bowl, likely the Outback. A bowl win would give the Wildcats their first 10-win season since the Rose Bowl year in 1995 … Illinois has lost 14 straight Big Ten games … It was one more rough game for Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase, who went 9 for 14 passing for 91 yards and two interceptions … Northwestern moved into the AP poll at No. 22 after the win.

* What’s Next – Northwestern awaits its bowl assignment. Illinois’ season is complete.

Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21 (OT)

* What Happened – Penn State (8-4, 6-2) pulled out the dramatic win at home on senior day in overtime. Kicker Sam Ficken’s 37-yard field goal in the overtime was the difference. Wisconsin’s Kyle French missed on a 44-yarder. It was Wisconsin’s third overtime loss in four weeks.

The Badgers rallied to force overtime on Curt Phillips hit Jeff Duckworth with a 4-yard touchdown with 18 seconds left to tie it at 21-21.

Wisconsin RB Montee Ball set an NCAA record after scoring his 79th career touchdown on a 17-yard run in the first quarter. The score broke a tie in the record book with Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio), who had previously set the major college mark in 1999.

For Penn State, it was a happy ending after the most tumultuous year in the history of that great university.

''This is a very special team because of the players and because of these seniors,'' said first-year coach Bill O'Brien, whose team won eight of its last 10 games after an 0-2 start.

* What We Learned – O'Brien's eight wins are the most ever by a first-year Penn State head coach. The previous mark of seven was set by Dick Harlow in 1915 … Each team was without one of its top defensive players as Penn State LB Michael Mauti (knee) and Wisconsin LB Chris Borland (hamstring) missed the game with injuries. UW WR Jared Abbrederis left this game with a head injury. Initial reports say Borland and Abbrederis could be back for the Big Ten title game … PSU RB Zach Zwinak carried 36 times for a career-high 179 yards and a touchdown … Ball ended up with 111 yards on 27 carries. For the year, he has 1,528 yards and 18 rushing TDs … Wisconsin’s five losses have come by a total of 19 points … Penn State DL Jordan Hill had 12 tackles, three TFLs and two sacks for the Nittany Lions.

* What’s Next – Wisconsin faces Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game. Penn State’s season is complete.

* More Coverage – Click here for more coverage of Wisconsin-Penn State. Click here for more coverage from Badger 247.

Click here for more coverage of Wisconsin-Penn State. Click here for more coverage from Lions 247.

Big Ten Standings

Leaders Division

*Ohio State (12-0, 8-0)
Penn State (8-4, 6-2)
#Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4)
Purdue (6-6, 3-5)
Indiana (4-8, 2-6)
Illinois (2-10, 0-8)

Legends Division

*#Nebraska (10-2, 7-1)
Michigan (8-4, 6-2)
Northwestern (9-3, 5-3)
Michigan State (6-6, 3-5)
Minnesota (6-6, 2-6)
Iowa (4-8, 2-6)

*-Won division title
#-Clinched Big Ten Championship Game berth

Nov. 23 Game

Nebraska (17) 13, Iowa 7

Nov. 24 Games

Ohio State (4) 26, Michigan (20) 21
Northwestern 50, Illinois 14
Purdue 56, Indiana 35
Michigan State 26, Minnesota 10
Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21 (OT)

Dec. 1 Game (All Times Eastern)
Big Ten Championship Game at Indianapolis

Wisconsin vs. Nebraska (14), 8:17 p.m. (FOX)

Steve’s Updated Top 20

Obviously in Rivalry Weekend, there were a ton of top match-ups. Ten teams in last week’s AP top 25 went down to defeat.

They included No. 10 Florida State (lost to No. 6 Florida), No. 12 Clemson (lost to No. 13 South Carolina), No. 15 UCLA (lost to No. 11 Stanford), No. 16 Oregon State (lost to No. 5 Oregon), No. 18 Texas (lost to TCU), No. 19 Louisville (to Connecticut), No. 20 Michigan (lost to No. 4 Ohio State), No. 21 Rutgers (lost to Pittsburgh), No. 22 Oklahoma State (lost to No. 14 Oklahoma) and No. 25 Mississippi State (lost to Mississippi).

I moved out Texas and Louisville and moved in Kent State and Northern Illinois. Here is my new top 20:

Notre Dame, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, Oregon, Kansas State, Florida, Stanford, South Carolina, LSU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Florida State, Nebraska, Clemson, Oregon State, UCLA, Kent State, Northern Illinois and Michigan.

Picks Update

On Thursday, I made my picks for Week 12.

I ended up 20-10 straight-up and 16-14 against-the-spread. For the year, I am now 232-84 SU and 157-155-4 ATS.

In Big Ten games, I was 5-1 straight-up and 5-1 ATS. Through 13 weeks, I am 77-19 straight-up and 48-40 ATS.

Bowl Projections

With one week left in the season, the bowl projections are coming into focus. Here’s what we see for the BCS games right now:

* National Championship Game (at Miami) – Notre Dame will play the winner of the SEC title game between Alabama and Georgia.

* Rose Bowl – The Nebraska-Wisconsin Big Ten winner will play the winner of the Pac-12 title game between Stanford and UCLA. (Let’s assume the previous results these teams had stand up, so it will be Nebraska vs. Stanford.)

* Fiesta Bowl – Kansas State, with a win over Oklahoma, has the inside track to the Fiesta Bowl berth and Big 12 title. If K-State defeats Texas or if Oklahoma loses to TCU, Kansas State would be headed here. Oregon, 11-1 but not in the Pac-12 title game, would be the obvious opponent.

* Orange Bowl – The Florida State-Georgia Tech winner from the ACC title game will likely play the Big East champion, which should be the Louisville-Rutgers winner.

The fly in the ointment here is Kent State, which plays Northern Illinois in the MAC title game. Kent is ranked 17th and would qualify for a BCS bowl slot if it beats NIU, finishes 16th or higher in the final standings and is rated above the Big East champion (a virtual certainty if Kent is 12-1). If all of that happens, Kent would probably land here against the ACC champion and the Big East champion would likely go to the Sugar Bowl.

* Sugar Bowl – Right now, this looks like Florida vs. Oklahoma. But if Kent ends up in the top 16, Oklahoma could get bumped out and Florida would play the Rutgers-Louisville winner instead.

OK, and for the Big Ten bowl tie-ins:

* Capital One Bowl – Michigan (8-4) would get the nod here over Northwestern (9-3). The Wolverines defeated the Wildcats head-to-head. It looks like Texas A&M will possibly land here from the SEC.

* Outback Bowl – If Nebraska beats Wisconsin, the Outback may have no other choice but to take Northwestern here. The Wildcats would be against South Carolina, quite possibly.

* Gator Bowl – Wisconsin, even with a loss to Nebraska, could land here against Georgia or Mississippi State, perhaps.

* Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl – Michigan State is the most attractive of the three 6-6 teams and would fit in here against TCU or somebody else from the Big 12.

* Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl – I’d put Purdue here ahead of Minnesota, despite their head-to-head loss to the Gophers. Looks like Baylor or Texas Tech could be the opponent.

* Heart of Dallas Bowl – Minnesota vs. Iowa State seems to make sense.

The Big Ten won’t have a team to fill its Little Caesars Bowl slot.

Stay tuned this week for our Picks for Week 14 on Thursday.

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